Le rêve américain à la californienne !
Née en 2007 de la main de Jeff Knoll et Dave Cole, dans un petit bistrot, avec douze équipages qui entraient en compétition pour une caisse de bière, la King of the Hammers est aujourd'hui une des courses off-road les plus difficiles des Etats-Unis.
Il s'agit d'une course off-road qui allie vitesse et agilité pour franchir des kilomètres de routes sablonneuses et désertiques, ainsi que des obstacles qui sont de vrais murs de roches.
La compétition se tient chaque année en février à Johnson Valley, en Californie (USA), sur une plaine digne d'un western.
L'édition 2015 aura lieu du 30 janvier au 8 février.
Une fête entre amis qui est devenue une des courses les plus difficiles au monde!
King of the Hammers est un événement capital sur le calendrier 4x4, qui met plus de 300 équipes en compétition pour le plus grand plaisir des 35.000 spectateurs et près de 500.000 personnes qui suivent l'événement online.
Les véhicules tout terrain, Jeep et Pick-up géants préparés et équipés de tout genre d'optionnels se donnent rendez-vous, ainsi que les professionnels du secteur. La bonne ambiance est assurée par la foule de fans, curieux, touristes, et pilotes qui se mêlent pour former une grande famille multicolore, le temps d'une semaine, à Hammertown le village temporaire autour duquel ont lieu les activités de KOH.
1-#4448 -RANDY SLAWSON
2-#4421- ERIK MILLER
3-#81- LEVI SHIRLEY
4-#3 - WAYLAND CAMPBELL
5-#20 - DEREK WEST
6-#816 -LUCAS MURPHY
7-#48 - CODY WAGGONER
8-#27 - JON CAGLIERO
9-#4485 - TONY PELLEGRINO
10- # 4418 - MIKE COLVILLE
11- # 4111-TIM CAMERON
12- # 4435 - KEVIN SACALAS
13- # 4427 - JEFF RUSSELL
14- #3006- ROWDY TRUBENBACH
15- #63 - JIM WAGGONER
16- #65 - ROB KIRBY
17- #26 - CLAY GILSTRAP
Chronique Paolo Baraldi
Wow wow and wow again! With this exclamation Jim Marsden, the English owner of Giggplepin 4x4 and pilot of international fame, has commented on the first day of qualifying the exciting King of the Hammers. We can make it safely to describe our entire Koh Week. Because it would be simplistic to talk and celebrate only the highlight of the race Friday; the best known and appreciated, and that closes a week where adrenaline and spectacle merge into an explosive mix very difficult to describe in words to those who have been lucky enough to experience this firsthand.
Obviously we are talking about the King of the Hammers in only 9 editions has established itself as one of the most renowned and popular off-road events in the world so as to have a detachment European and one Australian.
I wonder if Dave Cole, the current owner, and Jeff Knoll, co-founder of Koh with Dave, they thought in 2007 when they organized this particular race for the first time to achieve such success and such a large number of followers. We said then that it was a whole week's show, which opened Sunday, February 1 with the King of the Motos, an incredible race where rocky canyons and fast stretches in the desert are mixed to bring the finish line only pilots tougher. As for the four wheels, the program was opened Monday, February 2nd evening with the incredible Vision X PRRS vs Ultra4 Shootout that saw riders compete against those of the east coast of the west coast in the "climb" Night of the fearsome Backdoor.
In this race fulminating competed two different schools of thought fuoristradistico with prototypes completely different: the Bouncers of the east side against the Ultra4 west coast. If the first edition last year was won by the West Coast with Randy Slawson, this year the shootout was dominated by the east coast that was well represented by the winner Bobby Tanner who climbed the Backdoor in just 22547/2. The sixty-five pilot dell'Ultra4 Bill Baird with his "single seat" got with 26.22 seconds in third place. Tuesday and Wednesday, February 3 and 4, were held 4 Wheel Parts Qualifying that put an order of departure for the Koh, were also the last chance for some riders to enter the King of the Hammers. Already in these two days the quality of vehicles and drivers has become evident and the competition for the best time, and therefore the best starting position was very close to the advantage of the show to the large audience present. Jason Scherer (01'59.500 "), Erik Miller (02'06.500") and Tom wayes (02'09.750 ") were the three fastest in qualifying. Levi Shirley, champion in 2014 dell'Ultra4 Europe, with its new livery Maxxis was highlighted with an excellent ninth place (02'14.310 ") putting behind respected names like Shannon Campbell, Loren Healy and Randy Slawson.
For the record, remember that Wednesday morning was also held the KOH RZR UTV Race where they raced side by side on the same path of the EMC then moving to the Chocolate Thunder. It was a tough race and challenging for both the vehicles and crews; were present at the start at least 52 UTV and only four have managed to get to the end. Mitch Guthrie with 6 hours, 20 minutes and 22 seconds has deservedly won this race. Cody Currie, third in general was the winner in the amateur category. Thursday, February 5 took to the field of 98 crews Smittybilt Everyman Challenge divided into the following categories: Stock, Modified, Legend and Spec. The race started at eight in the morning was impressive and exciting. In the end, only 12 have cut the finish line in time to demonstrate that the EMC is tough and challenging as the older sister Koh. The absolute ruler Brandon Currie, nephew of John winner three times in this race, it took 5 hours, 57 minutes and 43 seconds to complete the race and won the victory in the Modified class. The Australian Ben Napier won in the category Legend, Luke Johnson has dominated in Spec while Matt Peterson with his Grand Cherokee won the Stock.
All this increase in tension, spectacle and passion brought us day after day event highlights and much anticipated all this week: the King of the Hammers. The Johnson Valley, as usual, has reached the pinnacle of spectators, 60,000, and all eager to know the new "King" as well as to enjoy the show that only Ultra4 can offer. This edition saw the presence in the race of all the past winners: Shannon Campbell (2008 and 2011 and only winner with a single-seater IFS), Jason Scherer (2009), Loren Healy (2010 and 2014), Erik Miller (2012) and Randy Slawson (2013); only absentee JR Reynolds won the first edition of 2007 with Slawson as navigator. Another note of color for this edition of Koh is that this year took to the field all the family Campbell; besides Shannon find the Wayland son of 19 years and daughter Bailey, 18, the only woman in the race.
Every year that passes, the King of the Hammers is becoming tougher and this year the way, despite the changes to the circuit in the desert for the expansion of the 29 Palms Marine Base, was brought to the well 215 miles, 17 more of 2014, with a maximum time of 14 hours to go three laps. The most important day of this unique event began at 6 am with the alignment of the 129 participants in the Koh, representatives of well-8 nations, along the route of Hammertown. At 8 am with an atmosphere of Apocalypse Now in production due to helicopters that flew over Hammertow lit by the rays of the rising sun grazing on the "lake bed" it all started. The departure, the Backdoor, the Chocolate Thunder and other trails were besieged by the large audience that has not been disappointed at all by the prowess of all drivers who have fiery tempers with their feats of the many fans.
The twists are not missed until the last was not clear who would be the winner of the King of the Hammers, 2015. For a moment the Texan Clay Gilstrap took the lead and with Shannon Campbell and Bill Baird out from games was thought to be him to gamble with Erik Miller. A mechanical problem of Gilstrap and an impressive comeback Randy Slawson have questioned the end result that last lap turned out to be a struggle between Miller and Slawson. In the end, for the second time the "King" of the King of the Hammers is Randy Slawson who finished the race in 8 hours, 52 minutes and 23 seconds in front of Erick Miller. The third and deserved place went to the young man, 22, Levi Shirley that after the success of last year in Europe, which earned him the official sponsorship of Maxxis, crowned his career with a performance like a true champion. Levi was the only one on the podium aboard a single-seater IFS and this makes him even more honor. This year only 17 out of 129 at the start were able to close in time the race; Unfortunately we have to report that the three European riders, Fabio Manno (Italy), Axel Burmann (Belgium) and Ralf Kueller (Germany) have failed to accomplish their enterprise.
They should still be congratulated for their commitment and sportsmanship demonstrated both during and before the race; however, is already a great honor to participate in the King of the Hammers. Closed its doors in stars and stripes, the spectacular Ultra4 moved to Europe for the championship in 2015 involving four stages: France, Italy, England and Portugal.
Another Double King is Crowned.
The storm started before the dawn. 140 ULTRA4 cars lined up for the start at 6am huge V8s revving in the early morning dark, breaths and exhausts steaming in the cold desert air. 3 laps, 214 miles, the longest and toughest course in the short history of King of the Hammers and at 8am the green flag dropped and two by two the cars were set off at 30 second intervals.
The first 20 miles were all open desert before a scramble up the first rock crawl, then another rough desert blast back past the pits and up into the mountains, through the canyons with such legendary names as Chocolate Thunder and Backdoor… and now a new one to add to the infamous list; Jackhammer. The leaders went through fine, Eric Milller ahead of Greg Adler and Clay Gilstrap with Levi Shirley doing a nice neat job over the huge rocks. But behind it was carnage. The broken winches and axles caused a tailback and impatient drivers trying to squeeze by caused gridlock. There was a traffic jam of 30 cars at one point. Jason Scherer, after taking Backdoor on his first lap got caught in the traffic and did a great job of practically winching over everyone. Whoever makes his winch cable needs to use the video of him for promotional purposes.
But it was the bad fortune of one former King and the steady progress of another that was the story of the event. No one had an easy day, all the top guys almost lost everything but just before the sun set on a dusty Hammertown it was Randy Slawson up on the stage to claim his 2nd crown, 20 minutes ahead of Miller and Shirley.
Taking his first KoH podium looked like very hard work for the young Lucky Dog racer as he leaned against his stunning Maxxis tyres liveried car. “I hit a car right near the start and that broke the top of the winch housing so when I got out to use it I found all the parts missing. The only thing I could do was reverse and attack it to get through the rest of the rock crawls, including Jackhammer. I knew I had to drive carefully in some places and hit it in others but we didn't have any spare parts so the crew found an old Toyota pickup in the car park and unbolted what they needed. There was no one there to ask so they left a note and now they've got some nice new Gigglepin parts to give in exchange for their missing ones. In Pit 2a they fixed it because the plan was to winch up Backdoor, I got there and the winch worked perfectly, I made it up Resolution too but then something went wrong in the front, there was a vibration and it was bottoming out so I just couldn't beat it anymore. I passed Eric, he passed me back, then I got him again and finally in this last 10 mile stretch I passed him in the pits. We knew Slawson had won already but I also knew that Eric would be on a mission behind. He got past me and with the front end how it was I just couldn't keep up with him so had to let him go. But 3rd feels great. It was hard work building the car but there were so many unknowns making it, as so many companies involved with shipping, machining parts and all that… I am beat but I am happy. I’d like to thank Spidertrax, Maxxis Tyres, Tireballs, Dynomax exhausts, ADS shocks, RCV, Advance Adapters and Zero Gravity transmission, which was a key component. I beat on it all day and it didn’t get about 200F!”
Eric Miller looked much fresher and not at all like he’d spent 9 hours behind the wheel. “It was a heck of a day. It was the longest and toughest King of the Hammers course that has ever been put on. We ran more rocks today than we have ever done before but we were able to stick to our game plan. We left the line in first, Scherer opted for Backdoor and I took the desert and the goal was to get to the rocks first in some clean air. Most of the first lap was really good, no problems, just setting our own pace and were in the first physical overall lead… But then at the bottom of Big Johnson the whole right rear of the car sat down and it was my worst fear realised, the uni-bearing had sheared off and the axle was buried in the sand. Our hearts sank because we knew a great day had gone but we had to fix it. We only had a small scissor jack with us which wasn't good enough so we had to drive dragging the end of the axle through the sand until we could flex up on rock so the wheel studs were in the air and dug a hole in the sand. There was only 2 nuts left so we cross threaded them back on and limped another 2 miles back to the remote pits… and we lost an hour there. Once the guys had fixed the car there was about six cars in front of us but I still knew it was anybody's race. It was a long day at and knowing I still had a chance I drove with that mentality. We had a clean second lap and found ourselves in the physical lead again. I drove the car at the absolute limit of what it is capable of doing but unfortunately when we were about 20 miles from the finish we lost the steering pump. All the components on the car are the best of the best but we are pushing everything to the limit of what it is capable of. We were able to put fluid in the reservoir and make it to the pits and we changed to steering pump in 15 minutes. I don't think we've ever changed one in under 45 minutes before. We still had a chance because only Randy and Levi had got past this so the first thing I knew I had to do was get passed Levi… and because he started behind us I also had to put a time buffer on him, so I drove at 110% all the way back. We never gave up but couldn't catch Randy though... The team did a great job and it was just for some bad luck that we did win. My co-driver Rob Ruggiero kept me straight but without those issues we would have had an hour and a half on the others, so actually I’m quite heartbroken to be second, especially as we had the win taken away from us with the steering issue last year. Just bad luck…”
But the most relaxed of all those on the podium was 2015 winner Randy Slawson. “I set a nice comfortable pace that I knew we could maintain and it seems everyone else just overdrove their cars. We had a misfire all day and we actually ran out of fuel at one point because we were burning so much. It was getting about 1.3 miles a gallon and we ran out about a mile from pit one so my brother had to jump out and run to the pits and come back with 5 gallons. And he carried it like a man! We lost about 15 or 20 minutes there. Eric passed us but he was going at a pace that we weren't comfortable with, and I guess in the end he wasn't comfortable with it either because he had problems and we ended up passing him at the last pit, and from there we just cruised it in.
This year the tyres were outstanding. We didn't have a single flat which was the single most amazing thing for me. The second is how amazing the King shocks are because you can slam the car into anything and they just soak it up.
To be a two-time winner is pretty awesome but I'm not as stoked as I was with the first win because I've been fighting for it for so long. I was the winning co-driver in the first race in 2007 and I've been part of this race every year ever since as a driver or co-driver but last year we got 9th, which I was not very happy about. But I knew the car is capable of winning so we just cleaned it up really nice… and sent it!
Darkness had fallen over Hammertown before the 4th placed car came in but the 2015 King of the Hammers is all about the top three guys. All superb drivers with superb self-built cars. And Spidertrax axles got another 1-2-3!
I would like to say a big thank you to my friend Dave Morganthall who was driving me around in his Jeep, Emily Miller for decking out the press ten with her garden furniture and Mopar for the food and beer.
2015 SmittyBilt Everyman Challenge
The EMC was conceived as something like an after-thought to cater for all the drivers who wanted to race but hadn’t got the means to build an ULTRA4 car… but like everything else spawned from the sacred sands of Johnson Valley the class exploded and took on a life of its own. For cars with ladder chassis and limited to 37 inch tyres it was split into Stock and Modifed and last year had the Spec class and Legends were added to it. Today an incredible 95 cars were unleashed into the desert.
The course was the same as yesterday’s UTV demolition derby but the EMC cars are a little tougher so we were expecting more than 2 to finish…
Winner of the Legends class was a very happy Australian. Ben Napier has been racing for 6 years and isn’t exactly known as the luckiest driver in the field but today it all came together for him. “This is the original Bomber car made by Randy Slawson. He raced it for a year and then I bought it off him and raced it for three years but then retired it when I built my new car. Now it qualifies for the Legends class and as I want more seat time I entered it… and got some good luck by getting drawn for pole. We started behind the Modified and Spec cars so had a few people to pass and before we got to the first crawl in Crowbar and at about Race Mile 20 we’d got by about 20 people. Then it was just a matter of picking cars off one by one. The only problem we had was the transmission getting a little hot. That was it. We had a very good day and after these years of trying I finally won and am the first non-American ULTRA4 winner on American soil, and that feels really good!”
In the Modified class we are used to seeing the red Currie Savvy Jeep on the top of the podium but for most of the day it didn’t look like it would happen again. Brandon Currie, the son of 3-time former winner John Currie had some time to tell me about his day. “We started 31st but went hard from the flag and by Race Mile 25 were in 2nd place… mainly because we took a few risks in the desert so that we wouldn’t get stuck in the canyon in a bottleneck. We passed Jordan Pellrgrino but he stuck with us and overtook us again and then we had a flat on Fissure Mountain and spent about 5 minutes changing it. Then Lance Clifford in the Fox Spec car got by but he got stuck in Sledgehammer. My co-driver got out to help him but we ended up giving him a nudge to push him off the rock we was stuck on. Then we got stuck on Jackhammer and Pellrgrino pushed us up. We had a few issues going on that we had to deal with. The transmission overheated and switched the engine into limp mode so we had to drive while looking at the temperature gauge. He was driving well and was leading so we were going as hard as we could to catch him but on the second time through Crowbar we caught a rock and cut the tyre. Then we had to really push. We knew we had to be 2 minutes behind him because of corrected time but then at RM48 he broke something in the transmission and we had to push him off the course… and then cruise to the finish. My dad has won the EMC for the past 3 years but has stepped up to the big class so taking the car this year there was pressure on me, but I am proud to say that the Currie names remains unbeaten in the King of the Hammers EMC!”
Taking the wheel of one of Dave Cole’s Spec cars was Lance Clifford, co-driver of current Baja 1000 champion Rob MacCahren. “The first time I sat behind the wheel of it was at the start line so I was just out for some fun, especially as I am in the main race tomorrow, but I am too competitive so when the green flag dropped it was Game On! I started picking people off and overtook the whole Spec class after 1 mile in one pass! But I had a tangle with Jessi Combes... I was moving over to s a smoother lane through the whoops in the sand and she moved over and clipped my rear tyre which made her flip. I had no idea anything had happened but she was waiting for me on the finish line! We had a hug though, so everything is OK. Anyway, we got to Pit 1 and knew that we were doing well and by the time we got to Chocolate Thunder we were 1st overall… although I didn’t know it! We stopped for fuel in the remote pit and asked how many cars there was in front of us and they said, “None!” So then we got to Crowbar for the second time and were looking good but the engine overheated because the fans had stopped. It took about 20 minutes to hardwire them straight to the battery but the repair didn’t last too long and we had to stop again. Two cars passed us and then we got to the top of Crowbar and found abandoned cars from the first lap blocking both the trail and the bypass route. We tried to find a ‘creative’ way around but it didn’t work too well and we tipped over. One of the guys with a broken car winched us back but then our battery was dead and I had to run down to get some jump leads and we lost about an hour and a half. Luke Johnson got by us just as we were buckling up and we couldn’t have that so we pushed and caught him pretty quickly and once we were in front we knew we’d won the class. It was really good fun. We were laughing all day and having a good time!”
Full results for the Smittybilt Everyman Challenge are in the ULTRA4 Racing website.
Tomorrow sees the big guns out. The EMC is for cars that resemble their road-going counterparts, the Nitto King of the Hammers is for cars that don’t. 750bhp fire-spitting monsters on 40 inch tyres piloted by some of the most insane and capable drivers in the world. 2009 winner Jason Scherer has the advantage of pole, first over the line last year Tom Wayes has had some map and course marker reading lessons, Shannon Campbell is more hungry for victory than ever, Levi Shirley has a stunning new car that’s designed so he can see over the wheel properly, Ben Napier now has the fresh taste of victory, Loren Healy has won pretty much everything he entered in the last year, Tony Pellrgrino is a consistent finisher with a new car, Eric Miller is in a car he knows well… and there are a dozen other drivers all capable of taking their first win. Basically it’s the most open and competitive race ever. You need to watch it. Watch the free streaming link here! ultra4racing.com.
Chronique de Robb Pritchard
2015 Nitto King of the Hammers Presented by 4 Wheel Parts
In 2007 12 guys played in these rocky eastern California hills for a 6 pack of beer. 8 years later a whole new series, a global series, of cars are built for just King of Hammers. To put that into perspective, with just 15 more vehicles entered the King of the Hammers would actually surpass the Dakar as being the world’s biggest motorsport event. That’s absolutely incredible.
If you’ve watched the event grow over the years you might have thought that in 2014 it had peaked and reached a natural plateau in terms of competitor and viewer numbers… but the word here in Johnson Valley is just how much bigger it is this year compared to last. Viewing figures for the insane East-West Shootout where Rock Bouncers and ULTRA4 cars throw themselves at the sheer face of Backdoor were double what the whole main race was in 2014!
King of the Motos was on Monday, a side event already close to attaining legendary status. A couple of weeks ago I was in the Atacama desert talking to a Dakar bike rider and he said that one day he’d like to try KoM! Then after dark that party started with the East-West Shootout. With the redneck level up at 8.9 it surpassed all expectations. The Gates of Hades opened at the foot of Backdoor when a fuel spill was ignited and twenty years of spilled engine oil ingrained in the sand burned for half an hour and then the insanely powerful, huge-tyred Bouncers went up… and the ones that died trying got just as big a cheer as those that made it.
Tuesday was qualifying. A rough 1 mile track over the back of a rocky hill put pay to many vehicles with mangled wheels, snapped steering and ‘blown trannies’. Most were happy enough to get around and save their vehicles as after the big rains here a few days ago a lot of sand on the trails has been washed away and it is expected to be the toughest KoH ever, and not just because the course is now over 200 miles long!
Wednesday saw the hotly contested Polaris RZR UTV race presented by HCR. 46 side-by-sides were split into two classes and set off to attack the scenery… and the scenery definately won! Although 5-time former winner Mitch Guthrie slipped away to win by hours it was total devastation behind as only one other Polaris made it home behind him, plus one from the Sportsman class. The rest of the field spent the day struggling to get around or over the rocks… until darkness fell. If anyone says that KoH is easy take this as an indication that they need their medication adjusting!
The late afternoon was the end of the qualifying and the main show was the big guys going all out in Power Hour. Levi Shirley was one of the most spectacular as he bounced down the hill to the finish line. And his new car looks stunning. Shannon Campbell hit a ledge so hard that the front came up and almost sent him into a roll, reigning camp Loren Healy damaged the transmission, Tom Wayes was fast, just not fast enough and the pole position for the race on Friday was won by a stunning drive from Jason Scherer, the only driver out of 146 to get under the 2 minute mark. “I got the pole in 2013 so I know what a tactical advantage it is,” he explained. “Now I can decide if I should get up Backdoor first or not and can control the race which is important because KoH is win or loose race. No one cares who comes second, only the King is important as this is not the place for queens.”
Last year he had a co-driver to help but for 2015 will be going solo. “It means that I can have the radiator low down and also have the transmission running where the co-driver would normally sit. Getting the weight down is a great advantage. On the downside if I can’t get up Backdoor because of all the oil there I will have to get out and winch by myself or if I make a wrong turn I have no one to tell me to turn around so might go off into the military zone and get arrested!”
Tomorrow it will be the Smithybilt Everyman Challenge. You can find the excellent live streaming on ultra4racing.com. Seriously worth watching!
Coup d'oeil à l'édition 2015
L'épreuve principale est sans aucun doute celle réservée aux Ultra4.Les 20 premiers au classement de l'année précédente sont automatiquement qualifiés, ainsi que tous les anciens champions.
Épreuve sans assistance, toutes les réparations se font sur place. Utilisation du treuil permise, et parfois même très conseillée.
Le parcours de 310 km doit être franchi en moins de 14 heures.
(source : auto.lapresse.ca)
- 30 janvier : arrivée et vérifications administratives/techniques - 08h00
- 1er et 2 février : King of the Motos
- 2 février : Ultra4 vs. SRRS Shootout
- 4 février : Polaris KOH UTV Race
- 5 février : Smittybilt Every Man Challenge
- 6 février : Nitto King of the Hammers
(source : ultra4racing.com)
King of the Hammers 2015 Live!!
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